THE INSPIRATION BEHIND THE COLLECTION
My new collection Lucent is part of the rich legacy of jewellery making through the ages, reaching back thousands of years. This dazzling collection breathes new life into the story of forgotten heirlooms. It captures old world luxury and glamour with a new beginning, one that can be passed down through our own generations, as our grandmothers once did for us.
Lucent was inspired by beautiful costume jewellery given to me by my grandmother, Isabelle Ramsay/Pope. One item - a stunning brooch with a deep citrine colour gemstone in an elegant facet cut - I turned into a pendant, which I still love and wear. But the rest of the pieces - earrings and more brooches - were tugging at me to do something with them; to reinterpret their 1940s style and nostalgia into fresh, new contemporary designs.
I am proud to say this journey resolved itself in Lucent, which has become a timeless, luxurious collection. But it was not without a HUGE surprise along the way: that my “gemstone” was in fact intricately cut glass. Read all about my discovery (and shock!) here. (insert collection URL here)and read on to find out the inspiration behind the collection.
A brief history of glass in jewellery
Let’s travel back in time to explore the vibrant history of jewellery where exquisite cuts of glass sat among the world’s richest gemstones in beautiful jewellery pieces that adorned and elevated every wearer. And apologies in advance, some of the timelines jump around because of eras, inspiration and impacts of world events.
3500BC - While the trend of glass used in jewellery is popular again today, this diverse, malleable material has been peppered throughout history, adorning men and women, for millennia. The privileged and wealthy of Ancient Egypt and the Roman Empire wore priceless gemstones. Not to forgo a little luxury, the middle classes opted for glass, a material invented in 3500BC, becoming readily accessible after the invention of glass blowing in 100BC.
Middle Ages - In a period spanning 1000 years, everyone from Vikings through to the merchant middle classes of Europe adorned themselves in glass stone jewels and glass beaded jewellery in multicolour, stained and coloured glass opulence. The most notable of the time was the emergence of Murano or Venetian glass of the 13th century, which is still popular today (pictured above).
13th - 20th century Czech glassware - While the craft began in the 13th century, bustling merchant trading in Europe and South America ushered in an era of Bohemian and Czech glassware, which has its own fascinating story that continued until 1993. Czech artisans became known for their superior, experimental glass making techniques, which included coloured glass, enameling, cutting, engraving and gilding. Stand out eras for Czech glass in jewellery were through the Art Nouveau and into Cubism time (1900 - 1914 until war broke out in Europe), after 1918 when Czech glass became better known as Bohemian glass, and onwards into the 1920s and ’30s with Art Deco, new Czech Cubism and Bauhaus combining geometric forms and symmetrical shapes inspired by ancient art.
Caption: Gulbenkian Dragonfly brooch by René Lalique
The 20th century - Outside of Czechoslovakia, the new century hailed in an era of luxury and bold, rich opulence throughout Europe and the Americas. Inspired by exotic India and Far East design and the invention of machine crafting, saw the creation of daring, statement pieces crafted with glass adornment. Jewellers like French glass art designer René Lalique preferred working with new materials such as horn, enamel and glass over the convention of precious stones. This new wave of artisanal creativity set international fashion trends on fire, with New York quickly emerging as a rival to fashion powerhouse Paris due to the jewellery’s potential for exaggerated extravagance at low cost.
Caption: 1920s costume jewellery print advertisements
Early 1920s - Costume jewellery and its stones were designed specifically to emulate precious jewels, so much so that advertising at the time often referred to these pieces as ”reproduction jewellery” (pictured above) and certainly didn’t pretend to be real rubies, diamonds, sapphires and emeralds. Materials including white metal, clear and richly-coloured glass stones and beads, faux pearls, and shimmering stones (diamanté and marcasites) achieved the same contrasting colours and textures as precious metals and gemstones used in the creation of fine jewellery. Along with bright and colourful fruit salads, the Art Deco style evolved to include Far East-inspired motifs, such as fans and delicate florals, with materials that imitated coral, mother-of-pearl, and carved jade (pictured below).
Caption: Far East motifs and faux materials were popular in 1920s jewellery
Thanks in part to audacious French fashion designers Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli (pictured below) during the mid-1920s, costume jewellery had gained enormous respect. When these designers created and inspired jewellery made from imitation stones and plastic to accessorize the clothing they designed, costume pieces became not only acceptable but highly desirable.
Caption: French fashion designers Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli elevated the popularity of costume jewellery
Turbulence through two world wars - In the midst of communist unrest and the threat of a Nazi Germany world takeover, Bohemian and Czech glassmaking, while slowing down, saw glassmakers creating beading, rhinestones and perfume bottles from their homes. The era until the 1950s became known for its innovation and glamour despite the unsettled turbulence of boom, war and depression at an unprecedented time of accelerated social and cultural change.
Caption: Madelle Hegeler showcasing Dalí’s Leaf Veined Hand, Ruby Lips with pearl teeth, Eye of Time watch brooch and Corset Ring; The Eye of Time at Sotheby’s in 1959
A Post-War era and mid-century innovation -
The 1950s inspired a decade of jewellery that became whimsical and imaginative in part influenced by Surrealism with artists like Salvador Dali crossing over into jewellery design (pictured above). Companies such as Coro, Trifari and Boucher, among others, produced lines of costume jewellery made with moulded glass that imitated carved rubies, sapphires and emeralds.
Costume jewellery designers of the era used specialty glass stones with beauty and impact. One of the most significant innovations with an influence very much alive today was the debut of the aurora borealis stones, perfected by the Swarovski firm in Austria in 1955. This stone and technique imbued an iridescent rainbow appearance onto faceted glass beads and rhinestones.
Caption: iridescent quality created by Swarovski and Schiaparelli’s shocking pink combine in these beautiful pieces from the 1950s
Colour emerged as one of the most prominent elements of 1950s jewellery. Innovative combinations included faux emeralds and sapphires, turquoise and blue, fuchsia and olive, purple and violet, and orange and yellow. New shades, such as Schiaparelli’s shocking pink (pictured above) entered into jewellery making.
1950s jewellery features dazzling art glass, decorative beads, imaginative colour combinations, and textured metals. Single- and multi-strand necklaces, cluster earrings, pendant earrings, brooches, bracelets, and sets were a popular style statement in the era. It’s easy to find fabulous fakes – imitations of large-scale fine jewellery – as well as graceful and classic tailored pieces from the era (especially on Etsy!). Gold-tone was more popular than silver-tone during this decade.
Caption: Inventive pieces by America jewellery designers Miriam Haskell (top) and Alfred Philippe (bottom) defined the new, innovative American jewellery making era
The birth of an American industry - Shaped by the extraordinary world events of the 20th century resulting in restrictions or trade and shortages in the US from Europe, American costume jewellery came into its own. Inventive artists created bold, extravagant designs, including Miriam Haskell and Alfred Philippe (pictured above). Their pieces were works of art and incorporated glass, plastics and wood replacing the fine crystals that would have been available in Eastern Europe.
This was the long tail result of depression and WWII, which had earlier forced experienced jewellery craftspeople to switch from producing fine jewellery made with precious gemstones, to designing and making more “outrageous” costume jewellery with much larger and intriguing materials and stones. This also meant that the quality of costume jewellery skyrocketed due also to the influx of large numbers of extremely skilled and experienced jewellery makers, who were fleeing war torn Europe.
I hope this story of glass and how the costume industry came into being delighted and intrigued you as much as it did me. I am excited for you to explore my new collection Lucent and add your own flair, style and story to the pieces that excite you most.